A Place to Call Home: A Vision for Safe, Supportive and Affordable Housing for People with Justice System Involvement
Date:  10-11-2017

New report finds increasing access to housing reduces taxpayer costs for shelters and other emergency systems and also promotes public safety
From the introduction of the Prisoner Reentry Institute John Jay College of Criminal Justice report, A Place to Call Home:

Everyone should have a safe, stable place to live—not just access to shelter, but to a place to call home. Housing is a fundamental human need that lays the foundation for success in every aspect of our lives. When we have a home, we have a safe space to lay our head at night, store our personal belongings, a kitchen where we can cook our meals, and a launch pad from which we can seek jobs, attend school, and connect with our friends and family. Having a place to call home defines our place in the world, our sense of belonging, and our relatedness to others.

People with past involvement in the justice system need housing in order to reconstruct their lives. In many cases, they were previously experiencing homelessness or are unable to return to the place they lived before. As they look for a home, however, they find the doors to housing closed at every turn. Too often, they are denied this basic need because of their criminal justice history. They face discrimination in the private housing market, scarcity of subsidized housing, lack of affordable places to live, and bans from public housing, all of which puts a stable place to call home out of reach.

The result? The system relegates people with criminal justice involvement to the streets, to shelters, and to unregulated substandard housing—options that don’t provide the support necessary for them to achieve their potential. Shelters are often overcrowded and unsafe. They are temporary, causing the stress that comes from living a transient life. People living in such places often have no refrigerator where they can store fresh food. They can’t hang their clothes in closets in preparation for job interviews or work. They have no secure space to keep their valuables, photographs, or family keepsakes. They have no permanent address for job or school applications. Rather than providing the basis for success, these types of shelter more often lead to a cycle of homelessness and repeated jail or prison stays.

On October 27, 2016, stakeholders from the public and nonprofit sectors gathered at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for Excluded: A Dialogue on Safe, Supportive and Affordable Housing for People with Justice System Involvement, co-hosted by the Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College, The Fortune Society, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), and the Supportive Housing Network of New York. It was a day of conversation about the importance of housing to successful reentry for people who have been involved in the criminal justice system. It was a day to talk about shared values and second chances, and to outline the obstacles preventing people from finding housing. It was a day to focus on model solutions that have been proven to work so that everyone, no matter what their needs, has access to a place to call home.

Increasing access to safe, affordable and supportive housing for people with criminal justice histories furthers the shared values that Americans have held dear since the founding of this country. As a nation, we share a desire for a just society with opportunity for all. We believe that everyone deserves a fair chance to achieve their potential. We believe in redemption, the idea that people should be given the chance for a new start after they falter, and merit patience and compassion as they do so. We believe that individuals can change, given the opportunity to start over in society after making amends. We believe in community—that we are better off when everyone can contribute and participate. Housing builds such opportunity and, where there is more opportunity, life improves for all of us.

This document makes the case for providing dignified housing that meets the needs of those with criminal justice histories, and providing it as quickly as possible upon reentry.

Read the full report here.